Baboy Halas has a few fantastic scenes, with one particular scene indelible in my mind: the frame completely dark with occasional sparks. Within it, our hunter character negotiates with fire itself; and as the flame illuminates the rest of the frame, we see the hunter, dimly lit, subservient to the fire both visually and scene-wise.
Baboy Halas has a lot of these moments, but they are buried deep in ponderous, languid scenes. The movie seems to be aiming to transport you into its milieu, but at times the scenes stretch into tedium. It's a convention that may prove trying for some viewers (myself included.) But for those that choose to brave the storm, these moments are magic, given to use through a very unique cinematic experience.
I've also noticed that while I am immersed into this culture, I don't remember hearing the name of any tribe, or where the tribe comes from (somewhere in Mindanao? Lumad?) - I wish I could remember these facts, so that I can learn more about their cultural identity. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention.
Baboy Halas is quite a challenge to watch. Within its depths, the film bears mesmerizing fruits. But such fruits come only to those that walk the journey to the end, and viewers' mileages may vary.
Purgatoryo is one of the most polished films in this year's fest. Derick Cabrido and his team manages to craft an interesting world steeped in amorality and nihilism for the sake of the bottom line: money.
That said, most of the film feels like an exercise in how outrageous and edgy some scenes can get. Many characters have no qualms in doing the dirty in morgues or engaging in random necrophilia (the necrophilia scene, by the way, is among the film's most technically accomplished.) By the end, things were getting so out of hand I was waiting for the eventual dead underage baby brother incest sex scene. Thankfully, the film knows its limits.
As for the plot, reading the film's synopsis (if you can find it) is basically 90% of the movie. Given the film's world, this development is quite disappointing. The basic plot reminds me a bit of Paul Sta. Ana's Oros (2012) which operated on a very similar premise. The film's main source of entertainment stems from your immersion into its world, more than its plot.
It's a shame, since the film boasts some really interesting characters. Of note is On-On (Kristoffer King) who acts as the moral center of the entire movie, despite his outward appearance. I think it's one of his best performances to date. Bernardo Bernardo also delivers as one of the film's slimiest characters, Violet, whose only value for human life depends on what money the body (living or dead) can make her.
Purgatoryo oozes with technical skill and style. Its world is an interesting one, and one worth watching at least out of curiosity. But it leaves little else to the palate.
We end this year's full length coverage with HF Yambao's Best. Partee. Ever., which chronicles the journey of millennial Mikey (JC De Vera in an unforgettable role) as he goes through the prison system for selling party drugs.
His prison journey, backed by rich relatives and some influence over the courts, sits in stark contrast to some of the other prisoners, who have none of these advantages. The film does do its part to chronicle the state of prisons here in the Philippines, whose isolated social system is tiered and separated into classes, a microcosm reflecting society on the outside.
And much of the film is timely as well, as it deals with drug related crimes. Mikey might not have survived had he been arrested during this administration. For all we know, he might not have been arrested in the first place.
Relatively privileged or not, his journey through prison, a coming-of-age if you will, still changes him profoundly. He learns both love and loss during his prison time; he picks up a bit of responsibility as he heads his local group of gay inmates, ultimately fighting for their rights, and he tries to navigate through prison life in his own unique way. Unfortunately, many of these plot threads are abandoned as Mikey nears the end of his journey, but the movie's more about the journey than the destination, a storytelling decision that may not fare well with everybody.
The film ends conclusively, though it can be interpreted in different ways - either as a shift towards good, an abandonment of childish ways, or a reminiscence of violent scars that will never heal.
QCinema Shorts B Short Shorts Reviews
Padating is about a young woman and her father waiting for someone at the airport. Then it just ends. Although there are some hints from the dialogue and Ellora Espano's subtle facial expressions (my favorite theory is that the father is waiting for a favorite(r) child, or his wife/new wife) we don't really know who they're waiting for, or why. The end product is a bit under-cooked for my taste.
Papa's Shadow is a small, charming film about a young girl coming to terms with the death of her father, who dabbled in shadow play. It has a lot of cute moments that work in this regard. Anyone who has lost a loved one at an early age can probably identify.
and finally, Hondo ranges from silly to extremely dark (yet somehow still silly) near the end. I'm still trying to figure out what it wanted to say, but the fun's in the details, I guess. I'm also not convinced with the urticaria - I've experienced it to be more itchy than painful.
that ends my QCinema coverage for this year. The festival has really improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Here's to more great films next year. Next up, the second to the last major festival of the year, Cinema One Originals. See you all at the movies.